Although I have many, many homemaking weaknesses, laundry is probably my strong suit. Oh sure, I get backed up on occasion. But because we have a system that works perfectly for our family, it's easy to do a little catch up and get back on track. I recently shared our laundry routine with a friend who was at her wit's end trying to stay on top of her family of four's laundry. After typing it all out I decided to post it here, on my blog. I'd love to hear about your laundry tips and routines, because I'm dorky like that.
First of all, I have three laundry "rules:"
1. Sort as you go!
I can't deal with a big pile or hamper full of mixed up laundry. Ick. Who would want to manage that? If my laundry wasn't in a continuous state of "already sorted" I know myself well enough to know I would put it off until I had to run out and buy everyone in the house new underwear.
So we sort as we remove our clothing, finish with our towel, etc. We have three hampers in our master bedroom closet. Towels (because the towel hamper gets in the way in the bathroom), whites (or almost whites), and darks (aka everything else). I'm not one of those people who separates "darks" from "brights." If it isn't mostly white, it's a dark. (Unless it is a brand new item that is, for example, red, in which case I would round up a bright load for its first washing.)
Nicknack's room has a hamper. Since he is old enough to "help," it is lightweight enough that he can "help" drag said hamper down the hall to the laundry room on his laundry day. Like most two-and-a-half year olds, he loves "helping." I hope it lasts. When our baby girl is born her room will also have it's own hamper.
The kitchen has a small basket for used dishcloths/towels/cleaning rags.
The laundry room has two stacking hampers. One for clothing that requires attention (stain spray or bleach pen). I don't pretreat stains. I'm just too lazy. I just like to have a separate place to keep them so that I don't forget about them and wash them without treating them. Then I find the stain when I'm folding and have to put it through the laundry cycle all over again.
The stacking basket is for those kitchen linens. Since I only wash kitchen linens once a week I try to bring in the basket each day to lay out the towels/cloths that are wet (over the sides of the basket), so they don't get all grungy and moldy. Then when I dump off the next day's load I put those now-dry linens in the basket and lay out the newly wet stuff.
Rule #2: Label all baskets/hampers. This is the only way I've found to get my normally cooperative husband to sort with accuracy. Even if a basket was clearly full of white clothes, he'd toss in a towel. The labels helped, and now it's a habit.
Rule #3: Pull all clothes out of the dryer before it stops dinging, so as to avoid the dreaded task of ironing. I let myself be lazy about rags and towels, though, because who cares if the dishcloth is wrinkly?
Some people will make a very persuasive argument as to why all the household laundry should be laundered on one (or maybe two, depending on the size of the household) day each week. I respectfully disagree. A day of marathon laundering is about the least pleasant day I can think of, and I can't imagine doing that to myself once every seven days. Whereas one or two loads each morning is manageable and not terribly unpleasant. It's easy to motivate yourself when you know that if you just fold that one load that's dinging at you from the dryer, you're finished!
I do have a laundry schedule, which probably makes me sound more organized than I really am. It coincides with my cleaning schedule. For example, I clean the bathrooms on Saturday, so I wash the household towels on Saturday. Please note that I am not an accomplished housekeeper, so I might not actually get to the cleaning part, other than the bare minimum. But we always need clean towels, so I stay on top of laundry, for the most part.
The thing I like about having a schedule - a day for each type of laundry - is that it's easy to play catch up if you slack off for a couple of days. You can just do two days of laundry until you catch back up to the right day and you don't have to stop and figure out where to begin. If you think up a logical schedule for your family it's very easy to memorize. For example, I do Nicknack's laundry before I do whites because his laundry is sure to contain whites that need a little bleach treatment.
Here is our schedule:
Monday - I wash Penn's work darks, which are polos and khakis only. His work week starts on Tuesday, so he has a closet full of fresh work clothing on Tuesday morning, rather than a bunch of empty hangers with only his least favorite polos hanging there. This is the only day I actually do any sorting. I dump out the whole dark hamper, pull out his work clothing, and put the rest back in the hamper. I know that if I tried to make Penn a "work darks" hamper he'd put polos in the regular dark hamper (hey, they're dark!) and his socks in the work hamper (hey, he wears them to work!). So for the sake of simplicity, I break my sort-as-you-go rule.
Tuesday - I wash the rest of our darks (Penn's and mine). This sometimes takes two loads.
Wednesday - I wash Nicknack's laundry. I pull out the things that need bleach treatment and toss them into that stain/bleach basket and pull out the things from the basket that are his that are stained and treat them before tossing them in with the rest of the load.
When the baby is born she'll get her own load on this day, too, separate from Nicknack. Boy clothes tend to be dark-colored, girl clothes tend to be pastel/bright. Also, it's easiest to put clothes away when they stay separate throughout the laundering process. You don't have to run from room to room, you can just take the whole folded basket in and put it all away in the same place.
Thursday - I wash whites, including Nicknack's shirts that needed a little bleach spot treatment. I'm petrified of ruining non-white items with bleach, so I like to have a whole separate day for whites, without any other laundry in the vicinity of the laundry room. Speaking of whites, I keep a "mateless sock" basket in our closet for all the stray socks and I sort through it every time our sock supply seems mysteriously low.
Friday - the day I clean my kitchen thoroughly, I also wash the kitchen linens. I keep them separate from the household towels so I can add bleach.
Saturday - I wash towels. This usually takes two loads, although I don't know why since we all use our towels twice.
Sunday - I wash our sheets. I love to start the week with fresh sheets and I strategically schedule this for Penn's day off so that I can enlist his help in remaking the bed. I HATE dressing the bed.
By the way, we only have one set of sheets per bed (other than crib sheets). I hate folding sheets, especially fitted sheets. So I just strip the bed, wash the sheets/bedding, dry the sheets/bedding, and put it all right back on the bed. It just seems like an extra and unnecessary step to put a different set of sheets on the bed, which would require folding when the old sheets come out of the dryer. But that's just my personal preference, since I try to avoid any extra work whenever possible!
One last tip is that I fold everything on our master bed because the height is perfect, there is a ton of room for sorting folded clothing into categories, and the location is so convenient. It's a good place also, because I can lay out the clothes that require hangers so that they don't get wrinkled while I'm folding everything else. Our bedroom is more pleasant and light-filled than our laundry room and I can watch TV while I fold. The only down side to this is that Nicknack likes to climb up on the bed and "help," occasionally messing up some of the folded laundry. But I figure this is why I stay home with him - to spend time together, not to have perfectly folded laundry.
Okay, so that's our laundry system in a (large) nutshell. As you can see, I'm terribly lax about traditional laundry rules like sorting by color, pre-treating, reading a garment's care label, etc. But I'm pretty emphatic about pre-sorting and folding at the ding. Just because both things prevent a greater deal of work later. It's a system that works for us, as evidenced by the fact that I'm on schedule with our laundry as I type this AND I don't dread laundry, which I used to when I tried to do several loads at once or didn't have everything in a continuous state of "already-sorted."